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Evolutionary Design

August 26, 2009

Recently NASA used evolutionary algorithms to create a better antenna.  This is not true evolution in the sense that the fitness landscape (the peak towards which the evolutionary process moves) has been pre-conceived – that of a better antenna, which a set of parameters that would describe that this should be.  However is does demonstrate the power of an evolutionary process to generate a result that it hard to envision at the start of the journey.  By this I mean we are used to human-designed antennas and they have a regular structure, something like this:

Human-designed  antenna

So what does an evolutionary-designed antenna look like?

The fascinating thing about the antenna story is that no one had any idea of just what a “better antenna” would look like. In fact, they wound up with something that looks like a paper clip bent into triangles. Let me repeat the key thing here: a bunch of engineers wanted a better antenna. They had no idea what that better antenna would look like. But by throwing it into an evolutionary algorithm, they produced an antenna better than anything designed by a human being.

…and this is what you get:

design by  evolution antenna

Not something a human would design, I feel, we’re way to into symmetry to think of this.

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